In connection with a recent evangelistic effort in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we sent out more than two hundred personal invitations, in addition to a two-color handbill for general distribution by our people. The personal invitation is typed on our American Bible Institute Lectures letterhead, printed in two colors and using a small appropriate visual education cut.
As we are not able to see you in person, please consider this a personal invitation to be present at the opening meeting of the important series of prophetic lectures to begin Sunday night, September 27, at 7:45.
The enclosed complimentary card, if shown to the usher at the door, will assure you and your party reserved seats in the center section.
We shall be looking for you.
A. A. CONE.
We secured a hall for $10 a night, for not less than thirty meetings. This afforded the exclusive use of it on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. The regular price is considerably more than that. The manager said they had never turned on the lights for less than $15 a night for anyone. But I sat down with him and explained that I Could not pay that much, and told him that my limit was $10 a night. He finally signed the contract for that amount, and he surely has been considerate of us.
We desired to demonstrate that soil well prepared will produce, without the usual outlay of means for a public effort. We believe we shall also be able to demonstrate that the same principles that make for success in the Community Bible School work will bring success in the public effort, if rightly applied.
Our ushers have counted the people every night, keeping count of our own people who are present. In this way there is no guesswork about attendance. The hall seats 500. Our attendance has run as high as 451 on Sunday nights (with 59 Adventists present), to as low as 140 on a week night, with 13 Adventists present. Usually we have about 300 present on Sunday nights, and about 200 on week nights.
In our audience we have an unusual number of men, including an attorney, educational men of the city, and men in various businesses.
At the close, when I suggested that they take some of the announcement cards to give to their friends, there was an enthusiastic response.
One streetcar conductor said to the usher, "Give me 250 if you can spare them. I can use every one of them, and I'll use that many every week if you will let me have them. These meetings are the greatest things that have ever come into my life. This is what my wife and I have been waiting for and didn't know it."
As long as people are our walking, talking advertisers I think we shall not need to spend very much, aside from the usual announcement cards each week and an ad in the newspaper every second week. Our attendance is climbing with every meeting, and as long as that keeps us, we need not think of spending any more money. I favor cultivating the soil first and building up one's congregation before opening the public meetings. I feel this is by far the most economical way, and the way that gets the best results in the end.
Up to last Thursday night our offerings had exceeded our total expense by $14.86, including hall rent, newspaper advertising, handbills, announcement cards, and various other cards, plus various incidental expenses. Our conference president suggests that at this rate we may continue the meetings indefinitely. I have had only my wife and a part-time Bible instructor as my helpers.
The Gospel News Choir has been a wonderful help on Sunday nights. The director has worked so closely with me that the singing has been perfectly synchronized with the sermons and the appeals. We have had no anthems, no singing by the choir, or special numbers, which did not have a real message for the people. Even though the choir sings a very familiar hymn, it is rendered in such a way that many in the congregation are seen wiping their eyes.
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, instead of the choir music, I deliver a fifteen-minute health lecture. These health talks have become quite a drawing card. They are especially valuable in getting people there on time for the Bible lecture to follow. Some were inclined to come in late. But the health lectures and the giving of a free book every night have done wonders to remedy this.
My experience in this public effort has served to deepen my conviction that public efforts can be successful and can be conducted at very little expense to the conference if the field is cultivated by the right kind of preliminary work. Unless that preparatory work is done, I can see that large amounts of money would have to be spent. I seriously question the advisability of spending large sums of money on the evangelistic effort, especially in the case of those held by the average minister. I am more and more convinced that a city can be worked more successfully, more economically, and with more permanent results by working it in sections, or districts, rather than attempting a city-wide effort at great expense. I am not overlooking the fact that there are doubtless exceptions to this, of course.